Dani Sordo got the better of Sébastien Ogier on the second Sunday stage of Rally Spain, strengthening his bid to deny the World Rally Championship title favorite a podium place with his second consecutive stage win.
Sordo deposed Ogier of third on the first stage of the day, opening up a 0.5-second advantage following that test in the dark.
Riudecanyes is a classic Rally Spain stage with the famous donut around a roundabout on a highway overpass, and Sordo continued to have the edge on the first run through there.
He beat Ogier by 1.1s on SS15 to increase his gap to 1.6s, and the Hyundai driver was pumped up and enjoying the fight.
“I lost a little bit of time at one point but I tried to do my best,” Sordo said.
“It’s so fun to do this and also with a great champion like Seb, he’s a world champion so to fight with him is nice.”
Ogier was lacking the energy of his rival. “There is not so much more I can do,” he said, flatly.
“[I had a] slide a bit too much towards the end but quite on the limit. I’m just missing a little bit but it’s not over.”
Rally leader Thierry Neuville was pipped by his inspired team-mate by just 0.2s, but crucially Evans was another 3.5s slower meaning Neuville’s rally lead has now surpassed the 20s mark; standing at 20.6s.
Evans seemed a bit downbeat at stage-end in contrast to Neuville, who knows he’s in a great position to win the rally later on Sunday.
“We just have to control and keep the car on the middle of the road,” he said, unlikely to be going for a maximum attack on the points-awarding second pass of Riudecanyes.
“It’s important to bring home a victory for the team, that’s the main target. Both championships are lost so powerstage points don’t bring us anything.”
Kalle Rovanperä wasn’t pushing on Sunday’s opening stage in the cover of darkness, feeling he had nothing to gain given the big gaps ahead and behind his fifth spot.
But the Toyota driver was far more aggressive on Riudecanyes as it acts as a powerstage dress rehearsal. He was lucky to get away with hitting a kerb late on the test that broke his rear-right rim.
“It was the last corner so it was no issue,” he said of the damage. “I just went a bit wide on the last junction but all good.”
Nil Solans didn’t “want to do anything special” as his World Rally Car debut comes to an end, but he gnawed another 1.6s out of Oliver Solberg in their intensifying fight for seventh.
Neither driver is that invested in the tussle with their 2C Competition team-mate though; Solans just wanting to make the end and Solberg eager to learn; struggling in particular with tire management.
“The time is flying, so I have to find a solution,” Solberg said.
Gus Greensmith edged further clear of that battle on his final day with co-driver Chris Patterson who is calling his time on his restarted WRC career after Rally Spain.
Greensmith had a battle to keep the temperature of his Pirelli covers down but was 2.5s quicker than Solans and 4.1s up on Solberg to head next year’s Hyundai works driver by 6.7s.
1 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) 10m04.3s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +0.2s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +1.1s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +3.6s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +3.7s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +6.1s
Leading positions after SS15
1 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 2h18m56.4s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +20.6s
3 Sordo/Carrera (Hyundai) +39.0s
4 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +40.6s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +1m25.4s
6 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +3m59.1s
7 Oliver Solberg/Craig Drew (Hyundai) +4m05.8s
8 Nil Solans/Marco Marti (Hyundai) +4m09.2s
9 Eric Camilli/Maxime Vilmot (Citroën) +8m47.8s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Skoda) +9m00.4s